EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Documentaries and Emmy-winning director-producer R.J. Cutler have teamed up on a new four-part true-crime docuseries that pulls back the curtain on New York’s most infamous jewel thief, Jack Roland Murphy, aka “Murf the Surf.”
Cutler is writing it and will direct. His docus include The War Room, A Perfect Candidate, The September Issue, The World According to Dick Cheney, Thin and Listen to Me Marlon. His nonfiction TV credits include American High, Freshman Diaries and 30 Days, and he conceived and directed the series Nashville and the film If I Stay and generated The Oval Office Tapes. His docuseries Dear… is streaming on Apple TV+, and he’s got a November Showtime airdate for Belushi, with the musical drama Bronzeville right behind it. Cutler also is the producer-director of the untitled Billie Eilish docu for Apple TV+ He has won two Emmys.
Murphy has quite a track record of his own, on the wrong side of the law. His most infamous credit was an epic jewel heist of the Museum of Natural History, the biggest in New York history. It was masterminded by a band of suave “surfer dudes” from Miami in 1964, and the key to the operation was Murphy, otherwise known as Murf the Surf, whose name was propelled into pop culture after the heist — creating a notoriety that would stretch far beyond the caper. What followed Murf’s meteoric rise is a spiraling tale of unspeakable crime, murder, deception and mayhem which, to this day, remains shrouded in mystery. But there are high-speed boat chases, brazen robberies, shootouts with police, mob wars, prison riots, Cuban smuggling Russian gulags, acid trips and mental hospitals.
Murf managed to turn a lifetime prison sentence for murder into an opportunity to remake himself. He’s now a free man, Jack Murphy has found God – and travels from one prison to the next inspiring inmates. Can a career criminal change his ways? For the first time, this four-part docuseries will explore the tumultuous life of the man behind the legendary nickname. Cutler has exclusive access to Murphy.
Series executive producers are Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein for Imagine; and Cutler and Trevor Smith. It becomes another big series for the docu division formed by Imagine in 2018, and which includes Martin Scorsese’s docu about David Johansen and the New York Dolls, which will air on Showtime.